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McCollum Receives National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Leadership Award

September 28, 2016
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) received the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s (NOFAS) Leadership Award at an event in Washington Tuesday evening.

The award was given in recognition of Congresswoman McCollum’s work, beginning during her tenure in the Minnesota State House, to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome and to ensure that people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders receive the services they need.

After receiving the NOFAS Leadership Award, Congresswoman McCollum delivered the following remarks:

“Thank you Chairman Vig and thank you NOFAS for this special honor. And everyone here, thank you for your work on this important issue. Your dedication is helping to educate and make a difference in communities across this country. And as a nation, we too often push aside conversations about alcohol abuse, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

“Health care providers may offer a pamphlet on the topic for an expecting woman to read or mention it during a prenatal checkup. We know that a pregnant woman who drinks during pregnancy faces shame and guilt, which makes it difficult to ask for help from a health care provider or a loved one. Because of this, children with the disorders are often misdiagnosed when they have emotional or behavioral issues associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. And all of this means, they don’t receive the support or treatment they need.

“But the work NOFAS and so many of your state chapters are doing are helping to address these challenges, including in Minnesota. I first started working on this health care crisis as a State Legislator in Minnesota. I heard from families, health care providers, educators, and community leaders about the need for better education and resources for parents.

“Around that time, Susan Carlson, our state’s first lady, opened the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. For the past 20 years, Susan and the entire Minnesota team have been working every day to achieve their vision: “a world where women do not drink alcohol during pregnancy and individuals living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are identified, recognized and valued."

“This year, Minnesota became the first state to require foster parents have training to recognize and treat children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Our state’s law will help bring additional attention to this issue and ensure foster parents have new strategies to better help children. But this law would not have passed without the strong bipartisan coalition. A coalition that includes community leaders, health care providers, disability advocates, and others stakeholders.

“Earlier this year, I convened a series of roundtables to talk about health disparities impacting our communities. Alcohol abuse and prenatal alcohol use by pregnant women was one of the first health issues brought up. Now we know this isn’t just a problem in Minnesota, but in communities across the country. And we need to work with every community, using culturally appropriate strategies, to incorporate effective education tools that better support pregnant women, children, and their families.

“I know the work before us is not easy. It will take all of us working together to improve education about alcohol abuse, reduce the stigma faced by mothers, and ensure all families and children have the support and resources they need to be healthy and successful.

“Thank you for your commitment and dedication to promoting healthy pregnancies and families. Again, thank you for this very special recognition.”